Australia is in many ways the perfect travel destination for U.S. citizens - sandy beaches, an active lifestyle and English-speaking Aussies that treat you like neighbors.
But there's one catch: you need an ETA travel visa to get in, even if only for a day. After two successful trips to Australia, today I outline how the process works and a few tips to remember along the way.
First it is important to understand what an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) is and who it covers. While the vast majority of countries require you to mail your passport or physically visit an embassy to get a visa, Australia and the U.S. are pioneering an electronic system that takes out virtually all of the hassle.
An ETA is an electronic approval that is stored on a passport from select countries - including the U.S., where electronic passports are the standard now. This approval is shown at the Australian border once your passport is scanned, so having one is prior to arrival is of the utmost importance.
This visa costs $20 AUD (around $15 USD) and allows travelers to enter Australia without taking up valuable space on a passport page.
Before jumping for joy just yet, there are some minor qualifications you must meet to be eligible:
- Application must be made before you arrive in Australia. You will be denied entry without one.
- You can enter Australia as many times as you want during a 12 month period from the date the ETA is granted or until the expiry date of your passport, whichever is earlier.
- You can stay in Australia for a maximum of three months on each visit.
- You must not work while in Australia. You can undertake business visitor activities (undertaking of business enquiries and contractual negotiations, and attending conferences).
- You must not study for more than three months.
- You must be free from tuberculosis.
- You must not have any criminal convictions for which you have been sentenced for a total combined period of 12 months or more, whether or not the sentence/s were served.
How to apply
So if you are a U.S. resident, are visiting Australia for less than 90 days and have access to a computer, great! Here comes the easy part. Make sure to have your passport information handy and click this link to get started, keeping this post in another tab.
Step 1: ETA Type & Location
Here simply select which travel visa you are applying for - business or leisure - and select the country you are applying from (i.e. currently in). A business visitor is not working in Australia, but conducting business activity.
Step 2: Personal & Passport Details
Again, this one is pretty simple: add your personal details and passport details exactly as they are printed on your passport. It is important to note any criminal convictions honestly, as Australia and the U.S. share details about travelers - meaning you might be denied entry if you lie. Read more about Australia's "character requirement" by visiting their website.
Step 3: Address & Contact Details
The last real component of the application is also the most straight-forward. Add your physical address and, more importantly, your correct email address where the visa approval will be sent.
Step 4: Review Your Information
You know the drill - make sure everything is correct, then click next.
Step 5: Payment
My personal favorite step, as it is the only step you earn miles! OK, kidding, but in all seriousness there are a few cards that waive fees for travel visas, including the Barclays Arrival Plus and Capital One Venture - both in my wallet as I go around-the-world. So make sure to be mindful of which card you use to pay.
Now send that puppy in and wait for the next step - actually getting your visa.
When will I receive an approval email?
After your payment is approved, the Australian ETA system will automatically route through the application protocol - so there is nothing else for you to do but wait. The good news is most travelers receive an approval within seconds. If you don't, check back in and within 12 hours a decision will be made.
If you happen to be denied, there are a small number of successful reversals but these are few and far between. Contact information will be provided in any denial email - a far more advanced system than needing an appointment at a U.S. embassy, a process that can take months to complete.
Final notes & resources
At this point, your Australian adventure should be fully on track. But there are important things to still consider:
- Print out the confirmation email of your flight exiting Australia as entry may be denied.
- Print or save the visa confirmation email, just in case you encounter issues.
- Consider applying for Global Entry prior to your flight departing, expediting your customs experience.
- For miles, two Citi American Airlines credit card will get you enough miles to fly round-trip.
If you still have questions about the process or travel to Australia in general, comment on this post or use the Australian ETA resources listed below.